Microsoft’s ads target young users, haters

April 30, 2012

Who is a Microsoft customer? The immediate image that springs to mind is probably someone on a work computer, but Microsoft has been taking pains to revamp its image ahead of the launch of Windows 8.

Microsoft’s deal with Barnes & Noble, with its emphasis on education, could help the company target the college market — which dovetails nicely with Microsoft’s new advertising plan. Between its entertainment ecosystem on the Xbox and the sleek, tiled interface that’s being incorporated into everything from the Windows Phone to the PC, Microsoft is trying to woo back those who see the company as uncool.

Take a look at the ads that Microsoft has been running for Internet Explorer 9, for example. Last month, the company unveiled spots that featured a pulsing beat for the browser with the lowest cool factor, along with gushing reviews about the IE’s simplicity and beauty.

The company even makes fun of itself, with a spot that features a young man going through therapy to get away from his “addiction” of telling everyone to uninstall Internet Explorer, and a whole Web site called “The Browser You Loved to Hate.”

The main navigation tabs on the site read: “Curious?”, “It’s good now”, and “No, really”.

And, after a year of falling numbers, Internet Explorer is gaining market share again, up slightly to 53.83 percent from 52.84 percent, according to Net Applications, a gain the company took from tiny losses from Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

The numbers are hardly earth-shattering, but notable because it’s the first time the browser has gained market share in a year.

The makeover extends beyond IE. Microsoft has remade its Bing ads this year to highlight the story of snowboarder Kevin Pearce, as part of a pivot to case Bing as a search engine of action. Originally, Bing was supposed to be a decision engine (remember “Los links”?) but now it’s about getting to do things more quickly.

In an interview with The New York Times this past January, Bing’s director of advertising said that the ads are targeted at the “Generation Y” consumers aged 18 to 34.

Bing has also seen an uptick in market share in recent months. According to the analytics firm ComScore, Bing was holding steady at 15.3 percent of the market this past month, up from 13.9 percent in March 2011.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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